National Geographic : 1954 Dec
Crusader Lands Revisited 815 A Distinguished Historian Retraces the Route of Medieval Knights from Istanbul to the Holy Cities of Christianity's Birth BY HAROLD LAMB With Illustrations by National Geographic Photographer David S. Boyer WOULD you refuse a magic carpet to waft you over Crusader lands? I asked myself that question and told myself the answer: no. The letter in my hands had come from an old friend, Maj. Gen. Earl S. Hoag, who com manded Air Force activities of the Joint American Military Mission for Aid to Turkey. He suggested that I journey east, there to re trace the route I had followed more than 20 years before (1929-32) in the footsteps of the Crusaders.* Enclosed with the letter was a scrawl in red pencil bidding me come, signed "G. W." So another friend, George Wadsworth, who was United States Ambassador to Turkey, added his word to the invitation. While the flying carpet of the Arabian Nights might have some advantages over mod ern planes, as in landing upon housetops, it could not have summoned me forth more quickly than these welcome notes from soldier and diplomat. I hastened to cable General Hoag the probable date of my arrival at istan bul's airport and packed a light suitcase for this journey through the air. I wanted to visit again in this manner the castles and battlefields of the Crusaders those European warriors who set out more than eight centuries ago to wrest Christianity's Page 814 - Gaunt Crusader Castles Tower Above Syria's Terraced Fields Fired by Pope Urban II's call for liberation of the Holy Sepulcher, medieval Europe sent tide after tide of Crusaders into Moslem lands. Today wind-scoured castles bear witness to the passage of these dedicated warriors to Jerusalem. Lawrence of Arabia considered Krak of the Knights (Krak des Chevaliers, here and page 816) perhaps the finest and best-preserved castle on earth. Built about 1110 on the site of a still older fort, Krak was enlarged early in the 13th century by European soldier-monks of the Knights Hospitalers. Its walls sheltered at least 2,000 men and hundreds of horses; today sight-seers troop through the castle to look down on peaceful fields and villages (page 826). O National Geographic Society Kodachrome by National Geographic Photographer David S. Boyer holy places from the Saracen rulers of the East. Our ancestors of the First Crusade-Nor mans, Provencals, Flemings, Burgundians, Anglo-Saxons, Lorrainers, and many others had felt a call to leave their familiar homelands in western Europe to journey into the un known Orient, there to seize the Holy Land of Christ from the Moslems. The road of their mass migration, which they called the Via Dei, or Way of God, led them for three years (1096-99) by land and across the sea to Constantinople, gateway to the Turkish plateau, thence along the arduous coast to the city of their dreams, Jerusalem. (See map, "Northern Africa," a supplement to this issue.) Crusaders Stayed for Two Centuries Many of the knights stayed to found a kingdom in Outremer (Beyond the Sea) and defend it from the Moslems until they were driven out of their last strongholds in 1291. In following them thither nearly a genera tion ago I had traveled by ship and train, by unreliable automobiles, and by reliable but plodding donkeys. Then, during World War II, I was sent by the Office of Strategic Serv ices to these same Crusader lands, using what transport I could find-mostly local buses or British military vehicles. Now the miraculous ways of the air would take me back to something new. This Near East, as we call it, has changed. Syria and Jordan have joined Turkey as self governing nations, Islamic as in the beginning of the Crusades. Lebanon, predominantly Christian, also has achieved independence. The new State of Israel, almost seven years old, occupies much of Palestine. And now Americans are faring east in numbers to help administer United States assistance programs, journeying from the modern West of Point 4 and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to these older lands beyond the sea. It was no winged jinni of the Arabian Nights but a silent young pilot in the gray * See "Road of the Crusaders," by Harold Lamb, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, December, 1933.